Thursday, July 14, 2005

Light and Heavy tales about Freedom

We'll start off light:

First off, Hillary Clinton, senator from New York and the leading Democrat of the moment, seizing the moment of Karl Rove's vulnerability has... turned her ire against the makers of the Grand Theft Auto video games. Seems somebody made up a little Internet program that you can download that, gasp, lets you perform digital acts of hanky panky! The games are already rated for mature players, so I don't see what the problem is. I'm worried that Hillary is turning into Tipper Gore or Joe Lieberman. She wants the Federal Trade Commission to investigate people using their Playstations to get their digital groove on!

Now, more serious:

Ali Timini is an odious fellow. He's a U.S. citizen who has encouraged young Muslims to practice acts of terrorism and to travel abroad to wage Jihads in foreign lands. He's a nut job. He was also just sentenced to life in prison for his teachings.

Nobody he ever taught has ever committed an act of terrorism, nor did they ever join a foreign war, nor did they ever harm US troops or civilians. His students never committed a crime. Ali Timini will now spend the rest of his life in prison for preaching idiocy with no result.

The worst his followers did was practice terrorism and play paintball. Funny how Ali Timini will spend his life in prison for that while no white leader of any militia movement has even been punished in that way, despite all of the spent paintballs. Hell, to put a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in jail you actually have to catch him doing something, not just talking. At least they'd use the pretext of tax evasion!

Saying that the U.S. is the Great Satan, that its people should pay for the crimes of their government and that all of the infidels must perish is, to my mind, a very, very stupid thing to say. But... saying stupid things is no crime.

So, today, in one silly incident, the government acted out against sexual expression. In another, political expression. In both cases, the government was wrong. But I don't see much defense of expression in the mainstream media today. Too bad. It's the defense of the fringes, after all, that creates a zone of safety for everyone else.


At 8:11 PM , Blogger tifanie said...


At 12:08 AM , Blogger Jon E. said...

My hunch is that Hilary overreacted because Tipper told her over lunch that the naughty download includes a character called Slick Willy, Pimpmaster in Chief. ("You wanna be my intern, beyatch?")

As for Timini, I dunno. I find his case harder to sort out than Mike does. I'm with him--and the judge--in thiking that a mandatory life sentence for talking about violence is excessive and draconian. On the other hand, some sorts of talking about violence clearly should be illegal.

For example (and speaking of white supremacists), they belatedly managed to put Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen in jail for inciting the "Mississippi Burning" murders, not for actually committing them. Killen directly and unambiguously called for the killings, so he absolutely should be doing time (I just wish he'd done it as a young man). He's effectively serving a life sentence because he's so old, but I think he deserves an official one too.

Still, though I think Killen deserves more jail time than Timini, I think maybe Timini should have gone to jail for something. The Post article Mike links to makes it sound like Timini was making pretty specific calls to his war-gaming followers to join the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. If that's true, he was advocating specific violence against American troops to people who might really commit it, which probably should be a locking-up offense.

I guess the problem with this stuff is that it's so hard to tell who's just shooting their big mouths about a bunch of violence they don't actually plan to commit and people who really mean it. On the one hand, if somebody had thrown the Columbine killers in jail when they starting shooting their mouths off about their massacre plans, that would've been a good move. On the other hand, if it had thrown me and Mike in jail when we were in high school and blowing off steam with our massacre, that would've been lame.

Though I have always wanted prison abs.

At 2:23 PM , Blogger Mike M. said...

Thing is, the Mississippi Burning events were crimes that actually happened. There are no Timini crimes. Nobody did anything and as much as we want to stop terrorism before it happens, I don't think you can incite violence without... violence happening.

At 8:17 PM , Blogger Jon E. said...

Sure, we could bicker about this over e-mail, but why deprive the people of our intellectual pyrotechnics? Think of the people, man, the people.

Yeah, I agree that people actually committing the crime that someone incited them to commit makes it much easier easier to feel good about convicting the inciter. But I don't think people should necessarily have to act on your incitement before you're guilty of something.

If I convince my girlfriend to whack my wife but she then changes her mind and rats me out to the cops, I should still be guilty of something. I know being a co-consipirator can be legally and maybe even ethically different from being an inciter, but they're sometimes interchangeable and often close enough that similar punishments can make sense. I'm just not sure where Timini fits on the continuum.


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